Monday, August 17, 2009

It's Cave Week at Pacific Standard

On Sunday morning we hopped in my dad's Land Cruiser and drove down to Mount St. Helens National Monument to explore Ape Cave.

It was discovered in 1951 by Lawrence Johnson, who nearly drove his tractor into the bottom entrance, above.

His friend Harry Reese had three sons, members of a local outdoor exploration club called the Mount St. Helens Apes; they called the lava tube Ape Cave, and the name stuck.

After a short walk to the top of the tube, we made our way underground. Emily and I have been to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, which is gigantic, but feels a little less remote because all the tours are guided. Here you're on your own, save for the other explorers you pass along the way.

At over two miles in length, this is the longest known lava tube in the country. It's pitch black and a steady 42º inside.

If you go, be sure to bring a headlamp and a good flashlight. It's not a strenuous walk, but some scrambling is required as you pick your way over the rocks, so it's good to wear some stiff-soled shoes or hiking boots.

When we were done we stopped in at Cougar, WA for some provisions, and hit the road. It was a cool trip.

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